Kayaking Glacier Bay Nat’l Park, AK – Part 4

Day 4

Orange Point to Ptarmigan – 5.5 miles, 2.3 hours (does not include the stop at Lamplugh Glacier)

For our full itinerary and a map of our route see Part 1.

Orange Point

The day starts with more rain but it diminishes by breakfast. During the night one of our sleeping pads sprung a leak. We try to share one pad and are so tired it works and we sleep most of the night. Distant moaning of the two glaciers continues throughout the night but no bears.

At breakfast we watch a small cruise ship head down the inlet to the no entry line. John Hopkins inlet is closed passed this point from May 1 – June 30.

Crossing the Inlet

The morning rain has also brought periods of wind and the channel is choppy. We were planning to cross the channel at slack tide around high tide and follow the opposite coast past Lamplugh Glacier. We debate whether the sea is too choppy too cross. When the wind seems to have died down we make a break for it but just as we’re gearing up the wind picks up again. There are a few white caps but not too bad. The wind is pushing us up the channel towards Hopkins Glacier but the tide is flowing out creating  2-3ft standing waves. As we get closer to the other side the wind dies down but the larger waves continue. We handle them fine but are a bit nervous. One wrong move and you’re in icy water. Nearing the glacier the waves calm a bit but are still 2ft. Not the glassy conditions of previous days. It takes us 1 and quarter hours to get across.

Lamplugh Glacier

At Lamplugh we stopped at the beach in front of the dying side of the glacier of black dirty ice. It’s been 2.5 hours since high tide and it’s starting to go out faster now. There’s a shallow mud flat in front of the glacier so the receding water means we’ll have a long haul when we continue on. (It’s better to get there at slack low tide, when the tide is not moving so fast. At high tide the beach is underwater.)

Although it’s a beating unloading the kayak and carrying it and all our gear 100 yards back out to the receding water, exploring the beach in front of the glacier makes it worth the effort. For me, it was one of the highlights of the trip.

In front of the glacier is a small body of water and then a beach. Matt, the Ranger on the day boat said the water here is fairly shallow with little risk of a tsunami in a calving event.

The beach was strewn with large icebergs crammed together such that getting to the shore in front of the glacier would take some serious negotiating. To be this close to the glacier face and see the streaks of blue and details of the calving formations was truly amazing.

We have lunch back at the beach as the day boat cruises in front of the glacier. It starts to rain again and we put up an umbrella. It’s warmer than previous days.

Getting the kayak reloaded was a challenge on the long gently sloping mud flat as the tide was going out at a good clip. We sank into the soft sand – almost mud. You can get seriously stuck if you stand in one spot a moment too long. Surges pushed the kayak back into shore and out again adding to the level of difficulty.

Finally on our way, we navigate through an iceberg field, not so many or so big, but you don’t want to hit one. Even the smaller ones, unless super small, are like hitting a rock.

We meet 4 kayakers heading towards the glacier. The water calm, we join kayaks and have a chat. They’re 2 days into their trip and are heading to where we’ve been. The rest of the paddle was much easier than the morning crossing though 1-2ft waves continued all the way to Ptarmigan.

Ptarmigan Campsite

We set up camp in the same place we had on day 1. Still no trace of bears. Don found the leak in the air mattress using a nearby stream and fixed it. The sun and blue sky make a brief appearance but at 5:30 it starts to rain again. During a rainy dinner on the beach humpback whales pass back and forth feeding in the shallow waters. That night above the patter of the rain we hear whales spouting.

For links to all the posts in this series see the Alaska page.

June 3, 2021